Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Above are some images I received in a forwarded mail yesterday, containing some startling geographical revelations about the part of the world in which I’ve taken up residence. Now I don’t wish to immediately leap to conclusions and launch into yet another bilious rant (nah, that would be too obvious wouldn’t it?), and I acknowledge that, like, anyone can make a mistake, right? But… isn’t it just a teeny bit revealing about the US view of the world?

I am obviously not the first person to comment on this issue, and have frequently been annoyed by knee-jerk anti-Americanism in the past. For example, the widely reported story that less than 1/3 of US citizens own passports (though it’s funny nobody seems to be able to agree on a precise figure) may have some truth in it, but take into account the fact that the average US citizen gets two weeks annual holiday. In such a situation how many people are likely to consider flying to Europe or further abroad, suffering three days of jetlag and returning after having enjoyed a mere passing glimpse of the bewilderingly historical country they’ve squandered their entire vacation on?

On the other hand, when it comes to the people responsible for US foreign policy one tends to be a little less sympathetic. The fact that before becoming president, Bush had been abroad less times than Cheney had suffered a heart attack is not just funny, it’s also rather frightening. And in a society where presentation has become so hugely important, the above howlers do seem to indicate a rather cavalier attitude towards foreign states, and provide a clue to why the US has got so appallingly out of its depth in Iraq, with its ridiculous expressions of horror at the taunting of Saddam – as if nobody had expected this to happen. As if executing him wasn’t a vengeful and inflammatory act in itself. Own up, for God's sake.

It's impossible to feel anything but utter contempt for the US administration, whatever Christopher Hitchens says (and he is a man I used to greatly respect and admire, but can’t help thinking that his continued support for US foreign policy now stems solely from his vanity and refusal to admit he was disastrously wrong on Iraq). Buffoons, the lot of them.


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